How do you pronounce ‘route’ and ‘root’?

Recently, I wrote a post about Historic US Route 66. So …

How do you pronounce the word ‘route’? The nationally accepted way in the U.S. is to say it the same way as the nationally accepted pronunciation of ‘root’ which both rhyme with ‘boot’.

Growing up in Chicago, though, we said the word ‘route’ the same way people say ‘military rout’ to rhyme with ‘out.’

The fashion that we Chicagoans say ‘root’ is also at variance with national usage. We pronounce ‘root’ to rhyme with ‘foot’. For Chicagoans, this is the same vowel that occurs the word ‘roof’. This word rhymes with the sound that dogs make: ‘woof.’

I’ve heard these pronunciations from people who come from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve also heard these pronunciation from residents of Kansas City.

I don’t have anyone from Southern Illinois in my informal survey or from elsewhere in the Midwest besides the locations that I mentioned. My informants are older people who were born in these Midwestern states and who have not spent much time elsewhere in the country.

My own pronunciation changed to the nationally accepted way sometime during my life, but I don’t know why or when. I studied in Brooklyn for four years, but I don’t speak like a Brooklyner. Other than that, I’ve lived mostly in the Chicago area, except for ten years in Kansas City, until four years ago.

My impression is that the way we spoke in Chicago is the way people speak in the entire middle of the country. I’ve heard that some localisms came along with the railroads. Chicago is the railroad hub of the nation. It stands to reason that people who left Chicago for opportunities outward bound brought their local, Chicago speech with them.

While I’m at it, how do you pronounce ‘Chicago’, the city’s name? The people of the Chicago region and elsewhere in the Midwest pronounce the name of the city as shih KAW go, not like elsewhere in the country where they say the city’s name as shih KAH go. As far as I’m concerned, shih KAW go is the authentic name of the city.

Early on, when Frank Sinatra sang the song “Chicago, Chicago — My Home Town,” he gave it away that he’s from elsewhere. He sang, “shih KAH go, shih KAH go.” On the other hand, when Sinatra sang the song “My Kind of Town, Chicago Is” before a live crowd in 1982, he sang, “shih CAW go.”

Go figure.

Historic U.S. Route 80

Sign in Florence, Arizona

Mount Lemmon from the north. Notice remnants of snow in the foreground from the snowstorm 24 hours before. Picture taken from SR 77 between Oracle and Oracle Junction.

At one time, U.S. Route 80 ran across the southern tier of the country from coast to coast. The western terminus was San Diego, California, and the eastern terminus then and now is just east of Savannah, Georgia. The western course of U.S. 80 was decommissioned, so the route now terminates in Dallas, Texas. Portions of the route west of Dallas still exist and in Arizona have been designated as Historic U.S. 80 as the sign above shows.

Recently, I was driving from Phoenix to Oracle, Arizona, for a conference. Somewhat east of Phoenix, signed Historic 80 veers off from U.S. Route 60 to become Historic 80’s northernmost point of the section that I drove down. This interchange is called Florence Junction. The official designation of the road is Arizona State Route 79 (SR 79). Florence, Arizona, is the first town south of Florence Junction, about 14 miles distant. I would like to spend a couple hours in Florence to get a feel for the town.

Historic 80 then continues southward toward Tucson, Arizona, over SR 79 until this numbered road reaches SR 77 and terminates. This location is called Oracle Junction. The original U.S. 80 proceeded from here to Tucson and beyond.

See where SR 79 is on Google maps:

The distance between Florence Junction and Oracle Junction — the length of SR 79 — is about 42 miles. That’s about the same distance as between downtown Phoenix and Florence Junction! Metropolitan Phoenix has spread out along this entire corridor. This is a perfect example of urban sprawl. In contrast, the land south of Florence Junction is undeveloped grazing range land, and I hope that it stays that way.

On this trip, I was interested in reaching Oracle, east of what is aptly called Oracle Junction. The way from Oracle Junction to the town of Oracle, Arizona, is over SR 77 eastward. The most prominent landmark here is towering Mt. Lemmon. Mt. Lemmon is the highest peak in the Santa Catalina mountain range. This mountain range is in the Coronado National Forest which spans southeastern Arizona.

I like this description of this national forest: “The Coronado National Forest spans sixteen scattered mountain ranges or ‘sky islands’ rising dramatically from the desert floor….” (This quote is attributed to the Home page of the Coronado National Forest, but I can’t find it there.) You can see Mt. Lemmon as a sky island in my photo above. The drive from Phoenix to the foot of Mt. Lemmon is entirely a desert floor. As you drive, the elevation gradually rises. Oracle, Arizona, is actually about 3,100 feet higher than Phoenix. It lies northeast of the foot of Mt. Lemmon in a transition zone between the desert floor to the north and the sky island of the national forest. This transition zone is narrow.

All along the trip from Phoenix to Oracle one sees subtle changes in the plant ecology. For example, Saguaro cactuses grow in the lower elevations where there are no freezes during the winter. At some point in the trip, the weather brings freezing temperatures to the desert floor, and Saguaros can’t survive a freeze. One also sees this on a trip north from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona. At first, there are Saguaros everywhere. Then they grow only on the south side of mountains, the warmer side. Then they disappear. The temperature freezes over at night in the depth of winter.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has a web page describing the history of U.S. 80 in Arizona.

Also see the Arizona Daily Star, Photos of U.S. Route 80 through Arizona,

and AARoads, Photos of Historic U.S. 80

My 3 slide-rules

Two of the three slide-rules

You see here only two of my slide-rules. I had three, but I needed none. I’ve forgotten how to use them.

When I opened a drawer, I noticed that the three were tucked away there and I asked myself what would my heirs do with them? The top slide-rule, from Post, was one that I got when I was taking science and/or math in high school. It has sentimental value, so I’ll keep it. I don’t know where the other two came from. Perhaps I inherited a slid-rule from my father. But the third?

So, I resolved to give two away. I already gave away one to Goodwill before I took a picture of it. Now that I’ve taken a picture of the lower one in the picture, I plan to give it to Goodwill also.

Goodwill has a store and donation center about a mile away from where I live. It’s near a Safeway grocery store, so there’s no hardship in dropping anything off.

I did a lot of downsizing of big things in Kansas City before moving to Phoenix. Some furniture I sent to my sister in Atlanta. I took one large item to Phoenix for my other sister. I donated small things to Catholic Charities. I also threw some things away that I should have also given to Catholic Charities. Among them was a vintage 1950’s Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner in working condition. Unlike today’s vacuums, it had a cloth bag to collect the dirt. In other words, it never required a trip to a store to find a replacement. It was a bit of a messy arrangement to empty it, but the cloth bag feature endeared itself to me.

The other thing that I discarded was a set of four wooden folding chairs that were early acquisitions by my parents. I took them from Chicago to Kansas City, thinking that I might need extra chairs. Really, I already was taking four metal folding chairs that go with a bridge table. I also took those chairs from Chicago to Kansas City and then to Phoenix.

Eight chairs were more than enough. But why did I throw away the vintage chairs? I didn’t actually put them in a dumpster. I left them out in the off chance that some Latinos (or anybody else) would take them. I had noticed some Latinos cruise the neighborhood for such finds. I had seen what looked like families drive around the parking lot in the complex where I lived in Kansas City.

As much as I downsized in Kansas City, my sister and I found some more items, mostly small. For the most part, she offered to take them to Goodwill with some things that she had collected. Since then, I make my own donations.

One of a set of chairs that I remember from my childhood.

I never replaced this vacuum cleaner since it was so versatile. When I disposed of it in early 2019, it was roughly 60 years old. I last used it to clean up my apartment in Kansas City before my move.

Card table and folding chair from my parents.

I now have only four extra chairs instead of eight. I’m actually sitting on one now as I write this post. My computer desk is still occupied by my old Windows 7 desktop computer, and I left the office chair by the desk. In early December, I got a new Windows 11 which I set up temporarily on a patio table that I brought in from outside. I left the office chair by the old computer while I was copying data to port over to the new computer.

I’m now confident that I copied all my data from the old computer to the new one, so it’s time to recycle my old computer and move the new one to the computer desk. In fact, I haven’t even powered up the old computer in a week.

The Windows 7 computer has no sentimental value for me. No need to take a picture of it or of its monitor.

I’m also ready to recycle my Windows 7 laptop. With a smart phone on hand, I don’t need a portable computer to receive or send email or to surf the net. A laptop, though, comes in handy to store and create data. So far, I visited my son in Florida and used the old technology of pen and paper to collect my thoughts and other data.

If someone wants my old PC or laptop, they can come and take them off my hands. Keep in mind, though, that I live in Phoenix, Arizona …

So you’re interested in Limoges china. Beware.

One thing to know about “Limoges” is that it’s not a company. It’s a region in France centered on the city of Limoges. The region’s clay is excellent, so it has long been a source of fine porcelain. But, if you find a dot com with the name Limoges in it, you can’t be sure that everything that it sells is Limoges porcelain.

Limoges porcelain boxes are a favorite collectible. They’re based on antique snuff boxes and trinket boxes. The top lifts on a hinge and closes on a hand-made clasp. I inherited a box from my mother.

To know whether a box is genuine Limoges porcelain, you should look at the signature panel on the bottom or inside. The first line will say “Limoges France.” The second line should read “Peint main” –hand painted. So far so good.

If there is a third line, it shows the name of the actual firm that manufactured the box. I inherited from Mom a whimsical box shaped like an acorn with acorn meat inside. Like many Limoges boxes today, it is useless for containing snuff or a trinket. There’s no room inside. The requisite two lines are painted on the inside of the cover of the so-called box . Under these two lines appears the name “ROCHARD.”

My acorn Limoges box from Rochard.

Rochard is the actual manufacturer. They don’t have a website, though. A dealer with a dot com name seems to be unaffiliated with the French firm. This dealer doesn’t seem to be an exclusive distributor of Rochard’s ware either. It seems that you can also get Rochard’s ware elsewhere. However, none of these vendors show the signature panel for you to know what you’re really getting.

This is not the case with eBay. Sellers take pictures of an item from all sides. You can see the signature panel and know what you’re buying.

One of my sisters has a sewing box from the Eximious firm. It seems to be an English firm, but it’s clearly signed as a coming from Limoges. I’ve seen Charmart ware for sale on eBay, too. Artoria boxes are also on the market, however they don’t have a hand painted signature. It’s hard for me to determine whether anything about them is “peint main.” Most of what I see in the marketplace has no firm name. It makes one wonder why.

My sister’s Limoges sewing box from Eximious.

To call these collectibles boxes is mostly a fantasy. My sister’s Limoges is actually a box — small but still a box. But, my acorn is only a box because it has a hinge and clasp. Mostly, the boxes are a base for some porcelain figurine. Some figurines are tasteful like a dog or cat. Most are tacky and have nothing to do with France. Do you want the Empire State Building on top of your box? What about a golf club?

Mom had good taste. She bought boxes, not figurines. She was an inveterate collector, but not of figurines.

Lets back up. So you’re interested in Limoges china … Actually, no china comes from Limoges. Everywhere it’s clear that Limoges ware is porcelain. I don’t know what china is and how it differs from porcelain, but I’ve done enough research already.

Time for a cup of hot tea with sugar.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show

About a month ago I attended the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Arizona state fairgrounds in Phoenix as a guest of Bob Mattingly, Bob the Knife Guy, who is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Bob has been a knife sharpener as a sideline for many years. He is a cousin of the mother of my daughter-in-law.* We met at the Thanksgiving table of her parents four years ago.

He gave me his card and told me to look him up when I moved to Phoenix, so I did.

Bob set up a booth at the gun show. It’s not unusual for men with guns (almost always men) to also carry a knife. Some attending also know in advance that there are knife sharpeners at such events. There was actually a competing knife sharpener besides Bob at the event.

I’ve never held a gun in my hand, and I didn’t start at the gun show. I’m not a pacifist. Just that I feel safe enough as it is. If a robber entered my apartment, I would let him take what he wants. This is safer for me than brandishing a weapon.

I have no jewelry unless you count two vintage watches that are being offered on eBay for $500 each. We’ll see how long it is before they get sold and at what final price. I’m sure that a pawn broker wouldn’t give nearly eBay’s asking price if someone brought them in.

One watch I received at 16 for my confirmation (1967). I wore it until I started carrying a cell phone. As you know, the first display on a phone is the time and date. Very convenient. The second watch was my father’s which he got about a decade after I got mine. I don’t know what he wore before that. I just remember a metal link wristband.

What do I think about gun control? I don’t think that governments are going to be more successful at controlling the ownership and use of guns than they already are.

I advocate a public policy of gun safety. Let owners of guns carry mandatory liability insurance just like car drivers do. Only private insurance companies will know who owns guns. Not the government. Insurers then issue proof of insurance cards, just like they do for drivers, which gun toters have to produce to law enforcement officers and agencies. You own a gun, you insure it.

Insurance companies are likely to require that owners get safety lessons at authorized shooting ranges. Boy Scouts get safety lessons. See their information about safety lessons for shooting sports — which include archery and even BB gun shooting.

Just as failure to insure one’s car is a misdemeanor, so failure to insure a gun will be. This may remove some guns from crime ridden neighborhoods if officers can confiscate guns that are not insured, to be returned with proof of insurance.

But gun criminals don’t buy insurance.

Insurance is a state-by-state regulation, not federal. The insurance market controls premium rates based on actuarial tables of risk. Owners choose to pay up or relinquish their guns. How many gun owners will comply? Aye, there’s the rub.

  • the mother of my daughter-in-law — In Yiddish we have a single word for this relation, one for father and one for mother: m’ KHOO ten and m’ khoo TEN iss teh, respectively. They mean something like “marrieder.”

‘I got my licks on Route 66’

In 2009, I was driving back to Kansas City from Chicago by way of Interstate 55 between Chicago and St. Louis. This route had once been designated as “US 66.” It stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, California.

The actual highway number 66 was decommissioned in 1985, though, since the federal interstate highway system had supplanted all the earlier national roads like Route 66. A movement to venerate the highway and what it stood for swelled. Some states renumbered the remaining sections of the “Mother Highway” as state route 66. By now, remaining segments that are used for traffic have been designated across the country as Historic Route US 66, with states adding their name to the signage as you see.

My trip was leisurely. My curiosity prevailed, and I made two stops to visit the old highway. This above sign is from Lincoln, Illinois, where 66 had passed through the town on city streets as it had before it was rebuilt on the outskirts as a 4-lane divided highway that bypassed Lincoln. This rebuilding process in Illinois began after World War II. Segments were taken over for Interstate 55.

This next picture depicts Historic 66 as it passes toward the downtown of Lincoln, Illinois, on an ordinary street. National highways ran point to point from the center of one town or city to the next center.

These two pictures show the old highway’s original pavement as it proceeds out of Odell, Illinois, and wanders through the vast corn fields. The car is my old 2004 Dodge Neon that I acquired used in 2006 and relinquished in 2020 for a new 2018 Kia Rio. The Rio was my first car that didn’t have a previous owner.

Notice the Illinois license plate, if you can. I had been living in Kansas for a year already and hadn’t yet registered it in Kansas. There is a story here but not now.

I took a picture of this display in Interstate 55’s Funks Grove rest area. As you see, it commemorates Illinois’s section of Route 66. You also see the slogan that’s the title of this post “Get Your Licks on Route 66.” However, I’ve always heard the slogan as “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.” I was getting my kicks on my side-trips. I don’t know what ‘licks’ means or refers to.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66” is a 1946 song recorded by Nat King Cole.

My 9 kiddush cups

This could be used as an oversized cup for sanctifying the Jewish Sabbath on Friday night and Saturday midday. Although wine is preferable for kiddush, the sanctification ceremony, grape juice may be used or a mixture. A majority of the cup must be drunk.

It’s actually a silver water goblet that I bought in Smiths Grove, Kentucky, at Boone’s Antiques. I bought it in 2005 or so on a return road trip from visiting my sister in Atlanta.

I put this goblet aside for Passover use as the Cup of Elijah the prophet at the Seder (SAY der). Why it’s dedicated to Elijah is a long story for some other time.

These are seven of the nine kiddush cups. I inherited three. I inherited the one on the right in the second row from my Grandfather Fischer, my mother’s father. It is dated 1891 and is 84% silver. I inherited the two kiddush cups in the back row from my parents. The pedestal of the one on the right reads in Hebrew “who creates the fruit of the vine,” which is the Almighty of course. The one on the left is Israeli-styled copper with a patina.

I bought the cup in the front right in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2007. It’s a vintage silver cup from Russia dated 1863, also 84% silver. As usual, I have failed to polish it. It’s larger than the other cups.

I don’t know how the other two kiddush cups on the left came into my possession. The smaller one is sterling silver. The larger of the two is 25% silver.

This sterling silver cup is at the center of the seven cups. It was a present from my fiancee. It’s engraved in Hebrew with my name — Nesanel HaLevi, Nesanel the Levite. I’m descended from the Patriarch Jacob of the Bible’s son Levi. Jewish priests are also descended from Levi. They are accorded honor in the synagogue as am I. The priests’ responsibility is to bless the congregation. My responsibility is to wash their hands before the blessing.

The ninth kiddush cup is the one I use on Passover. There is nothing special about it. My son left it for me when he moved to Miami. It’s packed away with the other Passover items. Perhaps I’ll remember to take a picture of it next Passover.

Do I need this many kiddush cups? I’ve only had one guest at one time. He could have heard me make kiddush with one cup and answered “amen” and it would have been fine. However, it’s better for everyone to recite kiddush on their own. Perhaps, now that I’ve inventoried what I have, I’ll send these two kiddush cups of unknown origin to my grandsons since they have no sentimental value. Better that they use them now rather than inherit them way off in the future.

The others have sentimental value so I’ll hold on to them.

What do you put in your oatmeal?

Do you put something in oatmeal? Do you eat it with milk, soy or otherwise? Do you even eat oatmeal?

I have oatmeal every morning, summer notwithstanding. No milk for me. I let it cool a bit so I won’t burn my tongue.

No sugar for me, either. I’m diabetic, adult onset. When I do use use sugar — lightly in my tea — I have to trade it for another carbohydrate.

I cook my oatmeal with some oat bran to increase the fiber count. Otherwise, I add flax meal. The flax meal gives it some taste as well as more fiber.

To add real taste I add cocoa powder before I cook it. Otherwise, I add carob powder, which is slightly sweet. I get my carob powder from

I’ve been known to add honey (which is like sugar for a diabetic) and cinnamon. I’ve been meaning to add some cinnamon before I cook it instead of cocoa or carob powder.

For some reason, I don’t have a cup of hot tea with sugar with my oatmeal.

Are American Jews assimilated?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Jewish assimilation in the United States. Jews are supposedly becoming indistinguishable from their non-Jewish neighbors. Supposedly, many Jews have lost their Jewish identity and others have reduced their Jewishness to a receding ethnic background.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A large number of Jews celebrate Passover in some way. Perhaps only by eating some matzah. When we were young, we loved matza slathered with butter. Then there’s matzah brei (BRIE). Matzah is softened by being soaked in water. Then the water is drained and the matzah soaked in egg. The mixture is fried in oil.

Jews I know buy matzah only for Passover and finish the box and don’t have matzah in the house the rest of the year.

This may sound trivial — what some call “gastronomic Judaism.” But Jewishness in primarily in the home and only secondarily in the synagogue. Pollsters don’t investigate what the home is like.

The big observance of Passover is the Seder (SAY der) on Passover night. This is a recital of the Exodus from Egypt of our long-ago ancestors. It’s accompanied by eating matzah with bitter herbs and drinking four cups of wine besides eating a holiday meal. A large number of Jews participate in a Seder. Many make one themselves. Others are invited to the homes of those who make Seder. With electronics the way they are, there are even virtual Seders. There are also community Seders that are well publicized in advance.

Once again, observance is at home. Any number of these Jews don’t show up in a synagogue except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, if even then.

There’s one more home-based expression of Jewishness. It’s the winter holiday of Chanukah (KHAH noo ka). The eight-day holiday commemorates regaining the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the hands of the Syrian-Greeks who defiled it. The first touch of normality was to light the seven-branch Menorah candelabrum with pure, untainted olive oil. The Greeks had gone out of their way to defile all of the oil. The priests in the Temple did find one cruse of oil that escaped the attention of the Greeks. It was enough to last one day. G-d made a miracle that it burned for eight days until new, pure oil could be procured. So we light candles for eight days in our homes.

An untold number of Jews light Chanukah candles. Standard-sized candles are sold wherever there’s a Jewish market, even a small one. In the town where my synagogue is, there are 25,000 souls. An insignificant number of Jews live in town. Yet the local supermarket carries candles and holiday related paraphernalia.

You can believe that there’s a gastronomic dimension to the holiday. We try to eat latkes (LOT keez), potato pancakes fried in oil, not fat. The key here is the oil element. Since the miracle came about through oil, we are recalling the miracle when we latkes. People who are friendly with the kitchen grate their own potatoes — and maybe onions too — and fry them. And what better oil to use than olive oil?

Back to the supermarket. There are frozen, ready-made potato pancakes, which I bought this year and shared with my sister. Neither of us needed the empty calories of the eight latkes that make up the package. Then there are also mixes on the store shelves especially for Chanukah.

One dimension of Chanukah that is not in the home is the public menorah lightings across the country, even the world, wherever there might be a few Jews. A rabbi friend of mine in Cochise county, Arizona, sponsored celebrations around public lightings around the county and in, of all places, Tombstone, Arizona.

The Chabad synagogue where I said that I go lit a 12 foot menorah with lamp oil in the garden parkway across from the newish synagogue. The congregation moved into a vacant storefront across from where the menorah had been lit for a number of years before! Consequentially, the lighting was only yards away from the synagogue with its prominent signage that it belongs to the Chabad movement.

I would estimate that about 100 people — I wouldn’t know how many were Jewish — turned out around sundown. Hot latkes were served after the short prayers and menorah lighting — why not — and you had a choice of doughnuts, something else fried in oil.

So now we have moved into the realm of public, countable Jewishness.

Many American Jews do not enter a synagogue all year long. They say that they’re not religious, maybe even agnostics, so worship does nothing for them. They’re Jewish in their hearts. (You hear this a lot.) They aren’t asked by pollsters whether they’re Jewish at home sometime during the year.

Along come the Jewish high holy days (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), and Jews flock to synagogues. These folks are often derided as “twice-a-year Jews.” As I’ve shown, nothing could be further from the truth. They’re “twice-a-year” worshipers.

Please note that Judaism is more than a religion, more than worship attendance. It’s a way of life. American Jews punctuate their lives with Jewish ways.

Which brings up the cases when I am greeted with the expression shalom when as I pass by another person on my walks — sometimes a walker him/herself, sometimes a cyclist. I’m visibly Jewish, wearing a kipah (yarmulke) all the time, and that prompts their Jewish awareness to come out. Sometimes such a greeting comes from a non-Jew, though. But, what doesn’t come from a non-Jew is the greeting Shabbat shalom — literally “Sabbath peace.” This is a traditional greeting on the Jewish Sabbath, from Friday evening until dark on Saturday night. One does not say “good morning” (and so on) on the Sabbath. For those with a Sabbath awareness, it’s always Shabbat shalom.

Then there is Israel. Most American Jews are sympathetic to the welfare of the Jewish State. Many have gone or will go to Israel to see how a Jewish majority lives and to visit historical sites.

Parents send their children to Israel on programs specially geared to the interests of young people. Admittedly, some Jewish young people go to Britain, France, or Italy on programs, but how many? In what numbers? And going on these programs does not preclude going to Israel.

Some Jews on the left are obsessed with the Palestinians and how Israel treats them. This is still a Jewish identity. I’m sure that they’re indifferent to the way Russia has colonized South Ossetia, if they even know about it.

Still there is more public Jewishness than public menorahs. Some Jews make it a point of commemorating the Holocaust in public ways. This is a part of a distinct Jewish identity.

Some large universities have departments of Jewish Studies. There’s no telling how much of a Jewish consciousness students in these departments have (or if they’re even Jewish). When I returned to college — University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) — I took a course entitled Medieval Jewish History. While the professor had a Jewish identity, I’m not sure whether any of the students were even Jewish. The university also offered a course entitled Modern Jewish History. UMKC didn’t have a Jewish Studies department as of 2011.

Then there’s a tony high school in Chicago’s northern suburbs that offers Hebrew as a foreign language. I can’t say whether this is the only Jewish awareness for any students, but for Jews in the class, it is a public expression of not being assimilated.

Where there are concentrations of Jews, there are Jewish Community Centers. Funded by donations and membership dues, they serve the surrounding community, not just Jews. The JCC near Kansas City is equipped with a gym and a theater. Not so many JCCs are not so elaborate. But the JCC is primarily a venue for Jewish events. It also houses a Holocaust remembrance center.

What American Jews are is acculturated. This is a sociological description of describing a feature of immigrants to the U.S. and their children and grandchildren. The first generation has to learn English and navigate how to earn a living. The second generation goes to public schools and speaks and reads and writes fluently in English. The third generation of other immigrants to the U.S. assimilates, in this case to American ways and mores. But third generation Jews have rarely assimilated. They didn’t enter the melting pot.

Some sociologists liken the product of the American assimilation of immigrants as a cooking pot where all the ingredients come apart and meld and eventually become a puree. But, for the most part, Jews didn’t come apart and “melt” into American society.

Jews are acculturated. They know their way around American society. They’ve opened doors for themselves that were closed. The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions that broke up residential segregation. Along came the civil rights acts and more barriers crumbled. But even though the doors to assimilation are wide open, most Jews have retained a measure of Jewishness that may only come out at home.

Indeed there are assimilated Jews. Many of these have married non-Jews. Still there are cases where the non-Jewish spouse agrees to raise their children as Jews. No one knows how frequent this is. People only hear about alarming statistics of how many intermarriages there are. I do find it alarming, but it’s anyone’s guess how much Jewish identity these families really have, especially the Jewish partner. In one case that I know of, the Jewish husband of a non-Jewish wife told me, “She made me Jewish.” If he was assimilated before, he now had a Jewish awareness when he lit the Chanukah menorah. He was acculturated.

Jewish assimilation and intermarriage are Jewish tragedies. No doubt. But my point is that there is less assimilation than the pundits say. And poll takers don’t do in depth interviews. Such interviews are the realm of sociologists. How many have received grants to undertake such research about the extent of Jewish assimilation? How many want to undertake such research? It’s not politically correct to diminish the magnitude of Jewish assimilation.

I don’t want to fail to mention of small groups of Jews in the United States, Israel, and around the world who shun acculturation. They embrace parts of contemporary technology but not any American culture. They are determined to live lives that duplicate the ways of their forebears in Europe. There is no compromise on their part. They also don’t reach out to their fellow Jews who are unlike them, whom they deem as non-Jews, to increase their Jewish awareness. Is this also a Jewish tragedy? I’m not sure.

I admit that there is nothing scientific about what I have written. Notice how many times I write “many,” “often,” and the vague “sometimes.”

What I have done is introduce the sociological concept of “acculturation” to describe what I believe to be the majority of American Jews. I want to change the discourse.

Happy Hanukkah

I’m posting this during the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, eight days of festivities centered on the candles that we light. On the first night we light one single candle for the holiday. On the second night we light two candles, and so on, until all the eight candles are lit.

Some of us light small olive oil lamps with cotton wicks in place of candles. This reminds us of the candelabra — Menorah — in the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem at the time of two miracles.

The miracle that took back the Temple from the hand of the Syrian Greeks was a military victory, about 2,160 years ago. An uprising of a small Jewish army defeated a world power that had taken the Holy Land as a colony. The interloper’s occupation was too costly, so they left. We can see that this is a miracle.

The other miracle was private, in the sanctuary of the Temple, known only to the priests, descendants of the Bible’s Aaron, of the holy compound — an area where no one but priests entered.

In order to light the Menorah, seven arms holding lamps connected to one stem and its base, the priests used pure olive oil of the highest sanctity. They found only one cruse that would last one night and the following day. G-d made a miracle, and the oil didn’t burn down but lasted for eight nights and days until new oil could be procured.

We see that the military victory which spilled blood has been downplayed, and the miracle of the oil has been designated by the Rabbis as the miracle to celebrate.

In our homes, we also call our candelabras menorahs, but all have receptacles for eight lights rather than the seven of the Holy Temple. Menorahs come in all sizes and designs.

My menorah — as you will see — is simple and utilitarian. I’ve had it since my early or mid-twenties when I was first out on my own. (I’m now 71.)

This picture was taken on the eighth night of Hanukkah on December 29, 2019, my first Hanukkah in Arizona.

The prominent mezuzah is fixed to the right doorpost of this room as you enter. The Hanukkah lights are placed to the left opposite the mezuzah.

The beeswax candle is call a shamash — a servant with which to light the lamps or candles.

Many Jews place their menorahs in a window seen from the street. This publicizes the miracle to passersby beside to members of the family.

Many organizations place kerosene or electric menorahs to be seen in public places in cities and towns across the world. Think of a menorah that is about 20 feet or 7 meters tall.

The White House has such a menorah on its lawn. There’s been a menorah lighting ceremony inside the White House every year since the term of President Ronald Reagan, if I’m not mistaken.

The victory in the Holy Land of a small number of determined men and women against a world power should have been a lesson to the Soviet Empire and today’s Russia. You can’t occupy a foreign country and prevail. The Soviets should have known this before they tried to occupy Afghanistan during the 1980s. The people of Afghanistan made it too costly for the Soviets to remain.

It may be unreasonable for the Soviets to learn from the ancient Jews, but they should have learned from weak Afghanistan the lesson that today’s war and occupation of Ukraine would be costly and futile.

Let’s hope and pray that no more Ukrainians die and that they prevail against aggressive Russia. Victory may not seem like a miracle, but it is certain. History has told the Russians so.

May the light of Hanukkah spread and penetrate even the darkest corners of the world. Let all celebrate freedom from tyranny, ignorance, and hunger — for spirituality as well as for relief from poverty.